Title: The Last Unicorn
Author: Peter S. Beagle
Publication Date: 1968
Purchase Price: $15.00 (paperback)
Gothic Reading Challenge
This book is the first I’ve tackled for the Gothic Reading Challenge. It wasn’t on my list of planned books, but I was halfway through it and realize it fit the Gothic bill. Check out The Last Unicorn.
Believing she is the last of her kind, a Unicorn leaves her enchanted forest to see if she can discover another who is like her.
Along the way she is captured by a sorceress, escapes with the help of Schmendrick, a clumsy magician, and hears whispers of the Red Bull. The Bull is owned by King Haggard…or perhaps it is Haggard who is owned by the Bull.
In order to learn of her kins’ fate, the Unicorn must travel to Haggard’s crumbling castle and make her way down to the Red Bull’s lair. But before they even arrive at the gate, the group is set upon by the Red Bull himself.
In a panic to save the Unicorn, Schmendrick releases his magic — and turns the Unicorn into a human woman. Now the secret of the Unicorns’ whereabouts must be discovered before The Last Unicorn forgets who she truly is.
My first experience with Beagle’s novel was actually the 1982 animated film adaptation.
Although it stars the vocal talents of Mia Farrow, Jeff Bridges, and Christopher Lee, the animation is very stylized (it was done in Japan) and it’s not really that great a movie. The 1982 version is of poor quality, but a 25th Anniversary Edition featured remastered content that makes the movie more viewable.
The Gothic element
Although I definitely enjoyed The Last Unicorn, it is a fairly weird book. There is a butterfly which speaks in rambling riddles and cobbled-together quotes from Shakespeare, talking skeletons, curses, enchantments, and creepy castles — overall a very supernatural feel.
It’s also got a bittersweet ending, and I wonder if all Gothic novels are this way. I liked the mystical and fantasy aspects of The Last Unicorn, but I don’t know if I could handle reading twelve books with tear-jerker endings for the reading challenge.
Now Sleeps the Crimson Petal (Custer LaRue)
” ‘I will go back to my forest too, but I do not know if I will live contentedly there, or anywhere. I have been mortal, and some part of me is mortal yet. I am full of tears and hunger and the fear of death, though I cannot weep, and I want nothing, and I cannot die. I am not like the others now, for no unicorn was ever born who could regret, but I do. I regret.” (p. 207)
Anyone else participating in the Gothic Reading Challenge? If you’ve read it, what do you think of The Last Unicorn? Did you think the movie was weird too?